10 Perfect Cinematic Moments – Part II

AFistfulOfMomentsI LOVE Andrew of A Fistful of Films’s blogathon idea so much that I invited my pal Kevin G. aka Jack Deth to join in on the fun!

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Greetings all and sundry!

Having been given an oblique invitation to participate in such an intriguing concept days ago from our hostess, Ruth. I would be remiss if I did not open long ago forgotten vault doors and peer within. Searching for that moment that make a film’s tale complete. Its raison d’etre. Establishing or unearthing a character. Or the adventure’s well hidden “McGuffin” before shocked and suddenly interested eyes.

To that end. Please allow me a few moments to rummage around. Make a few discoveries and bring those to well deserved attention an light with…

A Fistful Of Moments Blogathon!

Having chosen the nice round number or ten. My choices will be in increasing range, strength power, or “Throw Weight”, From least to most powerful or memorable.

#10 – Opening Sequence. Strangers On A Train (1951)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Classic Hitchcock being Htchcock. Playfully setting up the audience with the juxtapositions of randomness, perhaps fate. And opposites attracting. As depicted so well with Robert Walker and his Bruno Anthony’s rather snazzy, foppish, two toned Fleur di Lis wingtip shoes. With what could also be built up heels. Opposite Farley Granger and his, we imagine; tennis playing Guy Haines’ less well cared for and comfortable brown Broughams.

Creating a mysterious opening gambit in what will prove to be less than “a beautiful friendship,”!

#9 – Kilvinsky’s Law. The New Centurions (1972)

Director: Richard Fleischer

This scene sets up “Grand Old Man”, George C. Scott’s twenty year Uniform Patrolman Kilvinsky to a T. And offers sound advice with his wise words regarding Police intervention and “interfacing” with the public. Words leaned through hard knocks and the disadvantage shared by those whose trade is inserting themselves where they are often needed, but rarely wanted.

Especially when offered against Stacy Keach’s fresh from the Academy, rookie Roy Fehler. Who may not be ready for the reality of the street.

#8 – “Fire One!” The Bedford Incident (1965)

Director: James B. Harris

This is why bright and shiny new, scared to death of Captain graduates of the Naval Academy (James MacArthur. ‘Hawaii Five-O’) should never be allowed on a ship’s bridge. Let alone shiny, large numbered buttons!

Sub hunting is a specialized art and filled with volumes of unwritten rules both sides obey. Which is why each ASW ship has a Russian speaker to signal intentions. Verbally coax the enemy sub to the surface. And keep “Incidents” like this from ever happening.

Though, those rules are thrown away by Captain Finlander (Richard Widmark) in quest of recognition and perhaps, promotion in bringing another sub to the surface within Territorial Waters. Creating a cautionary tale from one of Stanley Kubrick’s more notable alums.

#7 -“Sherry Baby!” The Killing (1956)

Director: Stanley Kubrick

This is the scene where languorous, conniving Femme Fatale Sherry Peatty starts to see and gently apply pressure to the hairline cracks in her husband, George and his four “friends” plan to make a lot of money. Quickly! While allowing “The Grand Master of Sapdom” (Elisha Cook Jr.) to quietly, uncertainly flounder about and do what he does best!

A great piece of subtle cinema in a tale that is all too familiar with violence and irony.

#6 -“Little Birds”: Black Hawk Down (2001)

Director: Ridley Scott

This is what happens when Army Rangers have to clean up a previous controversial U.N. rocket attack and mess. And those Rangers are denied the use of AC-130 “Specter” gunships, Abrams tanks and Bradley Fighting Vehicles already in country and ready to respond. By then Under Secretary of State, Morton Halperin. For fear of “upsetting the locals”.

A powerful scene that brutally depicts the awesome marriage of firepower with modern technology!

#5 – “This Chess Thing”: Searching For Bobby Fischer (1993)

Director: Steven Zallian

This scene pulls the film’s tale together relatively early on. For Joe Mantegna’s sports writer, Fred Waitzken was originally skeptical of his young son, Josh’s talents. Though, with watching Josh play against all comers and making strong “Father & Son” time with out off state tournaments. Mr. Mantegan’s Fred is righteously entitle to “Go Full Mamet” on the unsuspecting teacher, Laura Linney!

#4 – Tango: Scent Of A Woman (1992)

Director: Martin Brest

This scene proves beyond a shadow of doubt that Al Pacino’s Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade is the smoothest, coolest man in any room! While also showing Charlie (Chris O’Donnell) the patient ease in gaining trust and winning people over by opening up senses to surroundings and beyond. Not an easy task for the uninitiated.

It’s interesting watching Donna’s (Gabrielle Anwar) apprehensions at first on the dance floor smooth out as the Tango ends.And her facial responses to Michael (David Lansbury) proving himself to be a rude and utter jerk. And that Donna may not be the best chooser of men, after all.

#3 – “Duty”: Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Director: Steven Spielberg

A neat little scene that delivers glances at the cast’s characters. With the discussion being held in almost a classroom manner. Are there better, more action and suspense filled scenes? Certainly. But, this one works for me in character introduction. Defining the mission and setting up the next series of scenes!

#2 My Post. My Call. A Tie With Orson Welles!

#2B -Opening Sequence. Touch of Evil (1958)

Director: Orson Welles

Still one of the best tracking shots in cinema! Made even better by the removal of title, credit and cast throughout.Also one of the most efficient uses of “Making the fist scene the most interesting” and in this case, telling. Serious Skullduggery is afoot with the placement of the bomb in couple’s convertible. With the next obvious questions being, “Who placed it?” and “Why?”

An exceptional three and three quarters minutes of film. That should have gone another half minute longer to introduce Orson Welles’ corpulent, crooked Police Captain Hank Quinlan.

#2A -Harry Lime’s Entrance. The Third Man (1949)

Director: Carol Reed

Quite possibly, the best, most clever and efficient entrance in film. With only a pair of shoes peeking beneath deep alcove shadows and betrayed by Harry’s Calico cat. And even more with the echo of retreating, running footsteps. But, it is those few seconds when we see Harry’s face and smile where a very large piece of the puzzle of Harry Lime is revealed in a stream of light!

#1 Minnesota Fats. The Hustler (1961)

10 Perfect Cinematic Moments – Part II http://wp.me/pxXPC-9C7  Thanks to my loyal contributor Kevin aka Jack Deth! @fististhoughts

There’s a reason why I chose this film long ago as my first guest post and critique for Ruth and this site. And this clip, though brief lays out Paul Newman and his “Fast Eddie” Felson’s immediate future in no uncertain terms. There’s no disagreement that Jackie Gleason, rarely known for drama delivers with amazing calm and confidence as “Minnesota Fats” as he sees shots invisible to others as he waltzes around the pool table!

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Check out Ted & my Top 20 Perfect Cinematic Moments


Agree? Disagree? Have A Personal Choice? The Floor Is Open For Discussion! 

Guest Review: The Hustler (1961)

Special thanks to my pal and regular commenter Kevin a.k.a Jack Deth for this in-depth review!

First, I’d like to thank Ruth for the opportunity to offer a guest review on her wonderfully enjoyable, informative site.

It’s not often that one is given the chance to rave about, offer insights or generally trash a film that piques my ire. Fear not. This review is positive in the extreme and a favorite film of mine.

Directed by Robert Rossen in 1961. The film tells the tale of ‘Fast Eddie’ Felson. Played flawlessly by a then, up and coming Paul Newman. Portraying the prototype of The Man With No Name made famous by Clint Eastwood under the direction of Sergio Leone in iconic ‘Spaghetti Westerns’ a decade later. Newman exudes supreme, cocky confidence and not much more.

What do we know about ‘Fast Eddie’?
He’s a pool hustler. Period. Nothing more.

Who with his partner and manager, Charlie Burns, has been plying his trade from Oakland to “The Church of the Good
Hustle”. Ames, by name. A walk up pool hall that resides in New York. Though could just as easily be Steubenville, Ohio. Hoboken, New Jersey. Or Gary, Indiana.
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The pool hall absolutely reeks of atmosphere as Eddie and Charlie await the arrival of ‘Minnesota Fats’. The man of legend. Jackie Gleason at his absolute best! Introductions are made and a marathon game begins with lush B&W overlays as the camera pans through the smoke hazed, shadowy room to a coffee house, Be Bop soundtrack laid down by Kenyon Hopkins. That only adds to the cat and mouse game played by two masters. As shots are made. Balls clack and travel into called pockets. Only to be racked and travel again.

Soon, another is added to the mix. George C. Scott as the silently watching, milk sipping, Bert Gordon. Who meticulously sizes up ‘Fast Eddie’ and finds him wanting. The match continues. Eddie loses and Bert takes Eddie under his wing. Playing rich, well heeled players in assorted halls and their opulent homes across the US. Life is good for Eddie, but not great. That happens when he happens across Piper Laurie’s Sarah Packard at a bus station, who instantly sees Eddie’s flaws and senses his damages are about equal to her own. Eddie and Sarah fall in about as close to love as either can manage. Which irritates, then annoys Bert as money is made and opportunities are sought. For Bert, to make more money. For Eddie and Sarah, any way to get away from Bert.
The opportunity arises, but not in a good way. As Eddie and Sarah break away from Bert. Only to have Eddie play fast and loose and have his fingers broken in a grimy hall just west of nowhere. Eddie recovers and is talked back into Bert’s good graces for another faraway game. Of Snooker. Not pool. Allowing Bert to have more than a slight hand in Sarah’s drunken suicide in a less than five star hotel room.

Which sets the stage for the final battle.

One that is more than worthy of the wait. As Eddie comes looking not for blood, but for money. Which to Bert is the same thing. Shots are made. Eyes shift and for once, Eddie is the Captain of his own fate.It’s a wonderful thing to watch. As Fats finally concedes. And Eddie wins. A Pyrrhic victory? Almost certainly! As Bert scarily shouts “You owe me MONEY!” And Eddie uses his newly applied leverage to verbally beat Bert down on percentages and cuts of the future takes. Before turning his back on Bert amidst threats to never play in a big time poll hall again.

Now. What makes this film good?

Many, many things. The B&W cinematography is near flawless. Especially at Ames. The pool hall where Fats plies his trade. Where shadows merge amongst the silent, attentively watching, down and out crowd to as one fluidly intertwined mass. The clarinet, saxophone, bongo drum and bass soundtrack may seem out of place at first, but quickly becomes part of the grim, desperate, close to grimy atmosphere.

The secondary characters all seem born to play their parts. From Michael Constantine’s world weary, ‘Big John’. To Murray Hamilton’s slimy, arrogant, southern gentleman, ‘Findley’. To Myron McCormack’s just looking to get by, Charlie Burns. All give their roles more than their best shot. And it shows!

What makes this film great?

Everything that makes it good. Plus watching three cinematic greats laying down their foundations early. Newman has never been more hungry and desperate. Planting seed that would flourish in later films, Cool Hand Luke and The Verdict. Gleason has never more completely owned a role. Physically or otherwise. It’s a treat to watch him waltz around a pool table. His eyes constantly seeking an unseen angle. While George C. Scott radiates silent, sinister evil. Rarely using his voice, but when he does. He scores!

Kudos to Robert Rossen for his screenplay and superb direction. Black & White works like a hand inside a glove for this film. Much more so than Martin Scorsese’s choice of color for his later, The Color Of Money, which has about one tenth the atmosphere. More than worthy of its two Oscar wins for Best Cinematography and Art/Set Direction. Though Newman, Laurie, Gleason and Scott were robbed of their Lead and Supporting Actor Oscars.


Have you seen this film? We welcome your thoughts in the comments.